The gulf in quality between United and Fulham was apparent a fortnight ago when we beat them 4-1 in the Cup. It might be a different story away from home though, even with their top scorer, former RoM favourite Dimitar Berbatov, ruled out with injury. They’ve won 5 of the 12 games they’ve played at Craven Cottage this season and lost 4. Last season we thrashed them 5-0 there, the season before we drew 2-2 after conceding an 89th minute equaliser, and they beat us in the two previous games, so we don’t have a great record at Fulham.
Fulham are currently only two points away from the top half of the table, but thankfully they don’t have the desperation of the teams fighting relegation. With them offering very little in the FA Cup game, you’d hope this would be an easy enough fixture for us, but teams like to do well in front of their own fans in their ‘cup final’ against us.
We’ll be hoping that players like Wayne Rooney can the difference today. He’s scored 7 goals in his past 8 games, which is great going, despite not playing as well as he can. He tends to go on good runs after barren patches, so hopefully he’s in the midst of some goalscoring form now. It’s interesting that he’s given up penalty taking duty, after suffering with a really poor record for someone of his quality, but I have a lot of respect for him doing that. All strikers want as many goals and opportunity to score goals as they can. They want to win the golden boot and look back at the end of the season and be able to prove what they’ve contributed. By letting Robin van Persie take the penalties he’s putting the team ahead of himself, so fair play to him.
In defence, Patrice Evra has now scored more goals from set pieces than any player in the league, and with his 5 assists, has created more goals than any defender in the league. He has the same number of assists as David Silva and more than the likes of Oscar, Yaya Toure, Wilshere and Fellaini. After two seasons of generally playing badly, it’s great to see what a contribution he’s making to our season. Rio Ferdinand should return to the starting line-up alongside Nemanja Vidic, but the right back spot is up for grabs. Phil Jones has been a regular fixture in the team recently but Rafael might edge him out. Jonny Evans is back in the squad but it’s unlikely he’ll be thrown straight in.
We could go ten points clear before City take on Liverpool on Sunday which would be huge. Ferguson has insisted we won’t become complacent if that’s the position we find ourselves in. After losing the title on goal difference last season it’s incredible to see how much we’ve improved (and how much City have declined?) in just a few months. Winning today would heap even more pressure on Roberto Mancini and it seems as though Liverpool like getting a result against the blues. Going back seven seasons (and seventeen games), City have only beaten Liverpool twice.
For us, these are the kind of games that could go either way, depending on which United decides to show up, but I hope memories of how it felt for them on the pitch at Sunderland last season are a big enough motivation to get three points out of this game.
Come on United!
bwin bets – £20 wins you…
Rooney to score first: £100
Hernandez to score last: £130
Vidic to score any time: £190
United to win 3-1: £220